Review Summary: A dark and atmospheric album with an offbeat sound that is a must listen.
Interpol, in their young career, has generated a lot of attention from the critics and fans alike, though some not so positive (See down below). They are not your average band, because only a couple bands like them have ever existed, and these few have been compared to them numerous times, to the point of haunting their image. Of course I’m talking about Joy Division and The Chameleons. It’s unavoidable, with Paul Banks’s distinct voice and cryptic lyrics. These mixed with an overdriven bass and sparse guitars add a dark atmosphere to their music. But some critics hound their sound, labeling them as mimics to Joy Division. But this did not hinder the band as their debut album Turn on the Bright Lights reached #158 on the Billboard 200, a feat for an indie band. So far the album has sold almost 500,00 copies, and is soon to be certified Gold, as still 4 years after its release, it remains a strong seller. It is the same with their sophomore album Antics.
Turn on the Bright Lights starts out with “Untitled”, a haunting, bass-driven track with the only lyrics being:
Surprise, sometimes, I’ll come around
Surprise, sometimes, I’ll come around,
I will surprise you, sometimes, I’ll come around,
Oh, I will Surprise you, sometimes, I’ll come around,
when you’re down.
It then goes off into an instrumental period, whereas the song winds down to its end. “Obstacle 1” starts on immediately after “Untitled” and is the first single off of the album. It is one of the best songs off the album, strengthened by Carlos D.’s excellent bass playing and Banks’s haunting lyrics. Its guitars are very repetitive, but it only adds to the aura of disarray the song holds around it. The slow “NYC”, another single, follows the sporadic song. “NYC” is not so bass-driven as the rest of the album and its guitars are used more traditionally on the song. Its chorus is meant to be heard in two ways:
Knew your kiss
New York Kiss
It gets louder around the 3:00 mark and soon the backing vocals compliment Banks, giving it a spacey feel. As with “Obstacle 1”, “PDA” comes as a fast-paced song following a slower paced one. “PDA” is the return of the formula of repeating guitars and heavy bass. (It is also the third single off of the album) “PDA”’s lyrics are very haunting, as they are very reflective, going from past tense from the first person, to present-tense. Much like “NYC” it’s vocals change focus from Banks to purely on the backing vocals. “Say Hello To The Angels” is personally my favorite song on the album. It is very fast-paced when compared to the rest of the album, only “Roland” being as energetic. It’s fast rhythm makes drumming on a near surface almost mandatory. After the 2:15 mark, it slows down, but builds and repeats its speed slowly but surely. After the return, soon another cool-down period comes to end the song on Banks’s repeating the phrase “Say hello to the angels” in a very monotone manner. “Hands Away” is a very calming song, with a choir in the background and the guitars merely playing along with the drums. This is another track where Carlos D. is almost completely absent. It moves by very quickly, as its repetitive nature makes it seem much shorter than it is.
“Obstacle 2” comes in with Banks’s distinct voice breaking the silence with guitars, bass, and drums soon to follow. Its chorus’s mixture of Banks, Carlos, and Kessler voices is really astonishingly refreshing to the songs down-notes. It winds down with Banks doing a coyote-like howling and the instruments following suit. “Stella Was A Diver and She’s Always Down” is the longest song at 6:27, and also has the longest name (hmmm….). It’s very similar in nature to the rest of the album, but more specifically “Obstacle 1”. It shares the same very dark and reflective nature. The lyrics once again prove to be very emotional and Banks’s repeating of “Stella I love you, Stella I love you” almost sounds like he is soon to break. He regains his composure and continues. It gets more repetitive through the song repeating not only the bass, but also the guitars, and the same vocals for 30-second periods, with the only thing changing being the drums.
“Roland” is the most sporadic on the album and very fast paced when compared to the rest of the album. It is an interesting listen because of its overall feel; while it can be dark and brooding with its very violent lyrics and the way his voice is projected in a very industrial way, it is also very upbeat with other elements such as it’s choir-like backing vocals, it’s fast-paced nature, and add-ins to the song, like during a break between the first chorus and the second verse, someone utters “Come on now, pussycat!” “The New” really seems like a filler song, but can also grow on you with its delicate flowing nature and its soul bearing lyrics. It is also the longest song on the album behind “Stella”. “Leif Erikson” is a popular concert choice for the band. It’s possibly the darkest song on the album and it ends the album in a solemn tone.
It’s a must-listen for anyone with an ear for something different, or really anyone who can appreciate such a complex album.